My daughter's teacher is on strike. As a mom, I stand on the picket line with her.
Students tell us why they skipped school to join their teachers on the picket lines. USA TODAY
My daughter warned me through labored breaths that she’s having trouble breathing. As I watched my six-year-old’s chest rise and fall, I realized we were heading down a very familiar path. A path that includes monitoring her oxygen level, breathing treatments and, consequently, missed school days.
My daughter has mild asthma, as well as environmental allergies. We’re fortunate that her only real exacerbations occur seasonally, or if she catches a virus. However, when she does experience a flare up, it requires timely attention. It’s the kind of attention that requires a school nurse. Unfortunately, her Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) elementary school only has a nurse on campus once a week.
As it currently stands, if my child were to have an asthma- or allergy-related issue, her teacher would have to ignore her other students to address my daughter’s immediate, potentially life threatening medical needs. With one first grade teacher having to cover an entire classroom of around 26 students without the assistance of a full-time classroom aide, a teacher simply doesn’t have the resources to handle all the demands.
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They don’t have the resources for one-on-one teaching.
They don’t have the resources to effectively care for health issue that should be addressed by a full-time nurse.
With this much overcrowding, our teachers simply don’t have the resources to handle a student’s individual needs.
Public school teachers are stretched too thin
This is why my daughter has missed five days of school since August. This is why she’s not safe at school when she’s experiencing even a mild exacerbation — unless we're lucky enough to have it happen on the nurse's scheduled day. Are families just supposed to hope for the best the other four days each week?
This is why I strike. This is why I support the approximately 34,000 LAUSD educators who took to the picket line Monday and will return to it for as long as is necessary to bring lasting change.
My support for our teachers and this strike goes far beyond a nurse shortage. Our school doesn't have full-time counselors, either. Or classroom aides. Or a librarian. Or an assistant principal.
It is unbelievable that the second-largest school district in the entire country is failing its students so greatly. LAUSD is missing the mark and our kids are paying the price.
As a parent, I want what every parent wants: a high quality education for my child. I want an education that instills in her a love for learning and takes into account her individual needs in order to set her up for future success. I want to know her safety is a top priority. All of this is accomplished in partnership with parents and by a school board that truly prioritizes children.
Demanding what our children deserve
As a former public school educator and teachers' union member (though I left the classroom nearly a decade and a half ago), I believe it’s our obligation to demand the resources every educator needs: manageable class sizes, access to supplies that create an engaging learning environment, safety for all students in the form of full-time medical assistance, a full-time librarian, full-time class aides that help ensure that all kids are thriving, counselors to help children work through the myriad of stressors that all students face (yes, children carry stress, just as adults do) and a full-time assistant principal.
A livable wage for teachers would be nice and less standardized testing for our students would be immensely helpful, too. I also find it inappropriate that LAUSD board members make more money than their full-time public school teachers do.
Many people believe that the current teachers' strike in Los Angeles is only a result of low pay. Some commentators have even suggested that teachers are being selfish in holding out for what is perceived as simply a pay raise. The truth is, teachers are grossly underpaid but this strike isn’t just about livable wages. This strike is also about our teachers demanding what our children deserve as public school students. My family and I stand fully behind those demands and these incredibly courageous and worthy educators.
Our children spend nearly 7 hours a day in the classroom, not to mention additional hours in child care. And our teachers often spend more time in the classroom than they do at home. The educators and the children they educate both deserve opportunities to thrive.
So I say to LAUSD, on behalf of the parents, educators and, most importantly, students who are looking to you for committed leadership: Invest. Invest in these teachers. Invest in these kids. Invest in their futures and the future of public education. End this strike.
Wendi Hauser is a mom in Los Angeles, California. She works as a freelance nonprofit consultant.